venerdì 18 maggio 2012

Flash of genius!

When I say “Florence” the first things foreigners think of are art, fashion, food and, of course, Italian latin lovers. However, the city that gave birth to Dante is also a cauldron of fermenting ideas in less famous sectors, but still very strong: research and technology. Today we speak with Carlo Bruni, Marketing Manager of CDR, an engineering company made up of a team of real Florentine inventors.

1)      What is CDR ? What do you do?
CDR is most of all an engineering company that applies its skills in several fields including mechanical and micro-mechanical engineering, photometry, biochemistry, electronic engineering and software development. We realize solutions for niche markets and potential customers.
It’s active on the market since 1990’s, when it was founded by a group of professionals with many years of experience in diverse sectors. Our most important sectors are the electronic toll collection system, the medical diagnostics system and the food test system.
Our systems are most of all applied in:
-        Telematics, with the electronic toll terminals for highways and parking lots. CDR plans and produces specialized terminals for tickets and magnetic stripe cards to be used for the electronic toll collection in the Italian highways or barcode based systems for parking lots.
-        Medical diagnostics, with hematology systems for the determination of the erythrosedimentation rate in blood samples, instrumentation for clinical chemical diagnostics and hemostasis systems.
-        Food diagnostics, with systems for the quick analysis of food, like olive oil, alimentary fats, milk and wine.
The quality of our products allowed CDR to be involved in important projects with leading national and international partners, like FIAT, AUTOSTRADE, FAAC, OLIVETTI, ENEL, NCR, INSTRUMENTATION LABORATORY , HOSPITEX DIAGNOSTICS, MENARINI, FERRERO, PARMALAT.
A synthesis of our activities and mission can be seen in a video, in Italian, at this address:

2)      Describe your most successful patents for us.
Innovation is one of our priorities. Some of our ideas and projects are protected by patents, but many of our products are protected by the brand FOODLAB, like Coca Cola, just to make an example.
Our most successful patents are:

·    The electronic toll collection systems for tickets and magnetic stripe cards (like VIACARD, BANCOMAT and credit cards) applied on the Italian highways;
·        In medical diagnostics, the system for the determination of the erythrosedimentation (VES), that allowed us to sell our instruments all over the world.
·       In food diagnostics, the system designed to measure the lactic acid in milk samples. And also, the brand Ferrero adopted our FOODLAB systems to measure some chemical standards in their product Nutella.

3)      What major challenges and problems do you face?
The major challenges lie in all these stages: conception, production, marketing, selling and collection.  Each phase presents some difficulties and has to be faced with specific skills. You must think of a company like a circumference, that needs all the 360° to be complete: if something is missing it cannot be closed. But, if I have to choose, the major challenge lies in understanding the market needs and then trying to satisfy them with our knowledge, mixing intuition, creativity, technology and experience.   

4)      What aspect of your business gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Our greatest satisfaction is to work in a group in a high empathic concern climate. It allows us to observe and analyze the world in order to understand suggestions and needs that can be translated in products for different sectors.  This value has always allowed us, in more than 40 years, to develop complex systems in various sectors, from telematics to medical diagnostics, going through food diagnostics and, back in time, systems for the textile engineering and even weapons for the military sector.

5)      You are an exception in the Italian brain drain. Is it difficult to choose Italy nowadays?
It is difficult to find a perfect recipe in the actual global market. We decided to prioritize a life philosophy, before being engineers, chemists, computer experts and, more in general, technicians.       We based our business on technologic innovation “niche markets orientated”. In telematics, for example, first in Italy, we introduced the electronic toll collection system for magnetic stripe cards in highways, parking lots, large-scale retail trades and interbank market.  
In the present world, time has decreased and the value of a human product walking at a same rate with human relationships doesn’t cope with the profit oriented strategies of the multinational companies. It is important to possess an “inner compass” that points research towards those activities in line with your own spirit, to be strong and proactive, to hold on and never lose your nerve.  

6)      What would Italy need to be more competitive?
Global market has made many well-known sectors not accessible anymore, because now we are facing the not equal competition from East Europe and the BRIC countries. But we still operate in other sectors, thanks to the quality of our products. 
Competitiveness is a mix of objective aspects, like infrastructures, networks, government policies and also the marketing strategies that you can learn in some specific training schools (Universities, masters…). But what I’d like to highlight is the importance of your mood. First of all, to be really competitive, you need to be confident and capable, of course.  This consideration can be resumed in an aphorism: “There are no facts, only state of minds” . Facts are determined by state of minds. You have to consider it when you elaborate strategies.

7)      How your job has changed over the years?
Our history, started in the 1960’s, has gone through different phases defined by an evolution in technology, especially in microelectronics and computer application. At the same time, global market evolved and new media communications started to appear (internet, multimedia, social networks…etc.). Our activity had to gain knowledge in order to  use new technologies and we had to organize our inner structure to manage with new international customers, without forgetting our main mission: the development of innovative products for niche markets.

8)      How do you imagine your business ten years from now?
Is there a million dollar prize for this question?
Joking aside, I think CDR should make an effort like the scientists who researched the laws to “order the chaos”. I mean that we will need to build a human and professional base able to face the challenges of the next decade, in terms of technology, but most of all we will need to work on our creativity to build mental and operating models for the development of products and markets. In some sense, we have to find the laws of a chaotic system.

9)      Some advice for young people starting careers?
In addition to the most predictable qualities, like professional qualification, determination, perseverance and a proactive attitude, I’d like to suggest something more: build your own “inner compass”, have your own value system in order to evaluate the proposals and the opportunities you will receive. Finally, be constantly active and proactive.


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